Each week this season, we will spend some time on Tuesday analyzing the highest scoring lineups from the previous weekend's DraftKings $10M Millionaire Maker contest. We will highlight trends and strategy such as how much to spend per position, which stacking strategies (if any) have been successful, and which position has been best used in the flex spot. We will also compare results from the 2015 season to our in-depth study of the results from the 2014 season and see if the conclusions we drew over the offseason hold up when more data is added to the equation.
We will also look forward to the upcoming Millionaire Maker contest and point out some players who are priced in the same ranges and have matchups similar to the players that helped previous DraftKings contest winners take home huge cash prizes.
The Winning Lineup
DraftKings user Ballah fielded a roster of Tony Romo at QB, Carlos Hyde and Chris Ivory at RB, Julio Jones, John Brown and Jarvis Landry at WR, Tyler Eifert at TE, Eddie Lacy at Flex and the NY Jets at Defense.
Ballah finished Sunday night with a solid total of 155.74 points on the strength of a big game by Tyler Eifert (34.4 points) and solid peformances from the rest of his lineup (John Brown was his low scorer at 14.6 points). He likely had no idea early on Monday evening that he would have a chance to win $2,000,000. However, a huge performance by Julio Jones (38.1 points) in the Monday opener boosted his total score to over 190 and he still had Carlos Hyde going in the night game. Hyde of course went on to have a huge game with over 180 yards and two touchdowns (35.2 points) and Ballah leaped from way back in the pack to shoot near the top of the leaderboard late in the game. The 49ers got the ball with less than three minutes to play and three straight Hyde rushes resulted in 17 yards before the 49ers started to kneel the ball. The final 5-yard carry by Hyde put Ballah over the top and made him the first $2,000,000 winner of the 2015 NFL season.
The Top 20
Below are the lineups of the top 20 finishers in DraftKings' Week 1 Millionaire Maker tournament:
|1||228.04||Romo||Hyde||Ivory||J. Jones||Landry||J. Brown||Eifert||Lacy||Jets|
|2||227.66||Mariota||Forte||Cunningham||J. Jones||J. Matthews||K. Allen||Eifert||Sproles||Vikings|
|3||223.34||Bradford||D. Murray||Hyde||J. Jones||V. Jackson||K. Wright||Eifert||Witten||Panthers|
|4||222.62||Ryan||L. Murray||Hyde||J. Jones||D. Hopkins||Landry||Rodgers||Eifert||Panthers|
|5||221.14||Tannehill||Hyde||Ivory||D. Hopkins||K. Allen||Landry||Graham||Witten||Seahawks|
|7||220.94||Romo||Hyde||Abdullah||J. Jones||Fitzgerald||S. Johnson||Witten||J. Matthews||Jets|
|8||220.72||Ryan||Hyde||Ivory||J. Jones||J. Matthews||Adams||Seferian-Jenkins||Landry||Panthers|
|9||220.14||Romo||Hyde||Ivory||J. Jones||Beckham Jr.||Adams||Witten||Eifert||Jets|
|11||219.92||Ryan||Lynch||Ivory||J. Jones||J. Matthews||S. Johnson||Witten||Eifert||Seahawks|
|12||219.26||Mariota||Sproles||Woodhead||J. Jones||J. Matthews||Wright||Bennett||Forte||Panthers|
|13||219.22||Ryan||Ivory||Woodhead||J. Jones||D. Hopkins||Adams||Eifert||J. Matthews||Jets|
|14||219.04||Romo||D. Murray||Hyde||J. Jones||J. Matthews||Ginn Jr.||Witten||Ivory||Panthers|
|15||219.02||Luck||Hill||Ingram||J. Jones||Wright||S. Johnson||Eifert||Witten||Seahawks|
|16||218.06||Fitzpatrick||Hyde||Ivory||J. Jones||J. Matthews||D. Hopkins||Cameron||Abdullah||Panthers|
|18||217.92||Ryan||Hill||Ivory||J. Jones||Landry||J. Brown||Eifert||Hyde||Dolphins|
|19||217.78||Palmer||D. Murray||Hill||J. Jones||Adams||S. Johnson||Eifert||Hyde||Dolphins|
|20||217.66||Rivers||Forte||Ivory||J. Jones||K. Allen||S. Johnson||Reed||Adams||Jets|
The Top Week 1 Plays
The four players who appeared most regularly in the elite lineups (the top 20 finishers) were Julio Jones (85%), Carlos Hyde (70%), Tyler Eifert (60%) and Chris Ivory (50%). Hyde and Jones were especially impactful in Week 1 and helped Ballah and many others ride a huge Monday night surge up the leaderboard. 7 of the top 9 overall finishers owned both Hyde and Jones. It must have been quite a Monday evening for those seven DraftKings players watching as Hyde and Jones had incredible performances back-to-back.
None of the top three finishers in Week 1 employed the common strategy of stacking their Quarterback with one of his top targets. Without any massive quarterback performances in Week 1, perhaps the lack of QB-WR/TE stacks at the top of the Millionaire Maker was just a fluke occurence. Only 55% of the top finishers in Week 1 used a stack. It will certainly be worth following as the season progresses to see if this is the beginning of a trend or just a random outlier as nearly all of the top finishers last season employed the stacking strategy.
In looking forward to Week 2, it is worth noting that you should not feel beholden to the idea that you must stack your QB of choice with one of his top targets. The week's top scoring Quarterback (Carson Palmer) did not help produce a top scoring WR or TE so the optimal strategy in Week 1 was bypassing the stack altogether. With quarterbacks like Tony Romo, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck and others currently missing their top target from last season, perhaps they will spread the ball around more and focus less on one top player.
Week 1 was devoid of any huge scores at the Quarterback position. The Top 20 Millionaire Maker contest finishers in Week 1 averaged only 22.1 points from their quarterbacks. At an average salary of $7,045, even the 20 best rosters of the week managed only to average just over 3x production from the quarterback spot. For comparison's sake, the average QB score for players who finished in the top 20 of the Millionaire Maker last season was 32.18 points (4.6x). Week 1 was a clear outlier in terms of lacking top scores at quarterback. Carson Palmer led the way in Week 1 with a relatively pedestrian 28.68 points. Perhaps ever more interestingly, only half of the Top 20 finishers got over 20 points from the Quarterback position. It will be interesting to see if we start to see more of the 400+ yard, 4+ touchdown passing performances in the coming weeks that have been common in recent years or if Week 1 is the beginning of a new trend in which Quarterback scoring will be lower.
In terms of pricing, $6,500-7,500 was the sweet spot in Week 1 with most of the top finishers rostering QBs priced in that range. Only one of the Top 20 owned a quarterback priced higher (Andrew Luck at $8,300) and only three owned a cheaper Quarterback (Marcus Mariota x2 at $6,000 and Ryan Fitzpatrick at $5,500).
Looking towards Week 2, we may look to Drew Brees ($7,800), Matt Ryan ($7,400), Eli Manning ($7,100) and Carson Palmer ($6,700) as the quarterbacks who most closely resemble the players, price points and matchups used by the Top 20 finishers in Week 1. It may be worth avoiding the most highly priced Quarterbacks in Week 2 due to the attractive high-priced options at WR and TE.
On average, The Top 20 finishers spent $6,175 on their RB1 and put up 25.6 points at the position (4.1x). The Top 20 spent only $4,585 on average for their RB2 and put up a whopping 25.7 points (5.6x) at the position. On the week, the RB2 spot was one of the main lineup differentiators. 70% of the Top 20 had either Hyde or Ivory rostered as their 2nd most expensive RB and those two players ended up being amongst the week's top bargains and highest scorers. Compared to last season, spending was down at RB amongst the top finishers ($5,370 per starting RB vs. $5,960 last season). In part, this was due to the lack of top performances by the expensive backs (Matt Forte excluded) in Week 1 and in part it is a function of nearly every top scorer owning Julio Jones and thus being forced to save some money at the RB position.
The prime takeaway from both last season and Week 1 is that it's difficult to finish near the very top without a high-scoring bargain RB2. Looking at Week 2, Carlos Hyde ($5,100), Chris Ivory ($4,700), Ameer Abdullah ($4,500), Danny Woodhead ($4,000) and Darren Sproles ($3,500) all look to have similar price points to last week when they were key contributors for the Top 20 finishers. With most of the elite runners under-performing in Week 1, it might make sense to try to find value at Running Back again in Week 2 and save some money for players at other positions like Antonio Brown, Julio Jones and Rob Gronkowski.
WR1 was the Julio Jones show in Week 1 with 85% of the Top 20 owning him. Jones was the week's highest scorer overall and the biggest key to a championship lineup. Adding to the importance of rostering Jones was the fact that many of the top performers at other positions (Carson Palmer, Carlos Hyde, Tyler Eifert, etc.) were all lower priced options. Thus, the opportunity cost of owning Jones was extremely low despite his price tag ($9,300) as long as you spent wisely at the other positions.
The most common WR2 option was Jordan Matthews, while Jarvis Landry, DeAndre Hopkins and Keenan Allen also appeared on multiple Top 20 rosters. Overall, the top owners spent on average $6,495 for 22.3 points (3.4x) of production at the WR2 spot. Compared to last season, the production was down quite a bit in Week 1, which tracks with the quarterback scoring also being down. The spending at WR3 averaged $4,685 and 18.8 points (4.0x). While those numbers look pretty strong, they too are well down from the averages seen last season when WR3 production was regularly in the 5.5-6.0x range.
Looking forward, we see the clear benefit of budgeting in a way that allows you to afford one of the top receiving options in the WR1 spot. In Week 2, Julio Jones ($8,900) and Antonio Brown ($8,800) look like strong options to anchor your Millionaire Maker lineup. Some intriguing options in the mid-lower priced range for WR2, WR3 and Flex are Jarvis Landry ($6,900), Eric Decker ($5,100), Kendall Wright ($5,000), Davante Adams ($4,900), Terrance Williams ($4,200), Cole Beasley ($3,300), Brandon Coleman ($3,300) and Phillip Dorsett ($3,300).
Week 1 of the 2015 season may be remembered as "The Week of the Tight End." The position was a clear differentiator between the average Millionaire Maker entry and the ones that finished up near the top. With QB and WR scoring way down on the week, four TEs put up over 30 points with Tyler Eifert leading the way (34.4). The Top 20 entries spent an average of $3,690 for a whopping 27.33 points of production (7.4x). Last season, the top finishers spent more than $1,000 more on average ($4,744) for far less production (20.79 points).
In Week 2, we have Rob Gronkowski available for the Millionaire Maker for the first time this season. Despite his high price tag ($7,300), he is a tempting option. High-scorers Jason Witten ($4,300), Tyler Eifert ($4,200) and Austin Seferian-Jenkins ($4,100) in Week 1 only saw their price tags go up a minimal amount. All three are strong options at Tight End and worthy of flex consideration as well.
With the higher than normal scoring at the Tight End position, it should be unsurprising that Week 1 saw an abnormally high amount of top entries using a TE in the Flex spot with Jason Witten and Tyler Eifert each on 15% of the rosters as the flex. Cheaper Running Backs like Chris Ivory, Darren Sproles, Ameer Abdullah and Doug Martin were also popular and overall 50% of the top finishers used a 3rd back in the Flex spot. Only 20% of the top finishers used a WR in the Flex spot, which is a major outlier compared to past seasons where WR was the most common Flex amongst top finishers.
Looking forward, there are still plenty of cheap options at RB, which makes it an attractive position to target three players. Tight End could also provide nice value either with two cheaper option (like Witten and Eifert) or using Gronkowski and a cheaper TE. Injuries at Wide Receiver have also left us with some attractive low priced options at the postion for Week 2 which makes the option to use a 4th WR look extremely attractive despite the lack of success for owners using that strategy in Week 1.
Tournament Player Information
Of the Top 20 finishers, 75% entered three lineups or less and over half were single entries. In fact, only one of the top finishers entered more than 25 lineups. With much talk of how scripts and high multi-entry limits would impact GPP tournaments going forward, the Week 1 results indicate some of those concerns are probably overblown. The "little guy" still can win big. Ballah, the $2,000,000 winner, entered the contest only twice.
For those interested in the overall breakdown of the lineup submissions for the Week 1 Millionaire Maker contest, our Devin Knotts combed through the data and found the following:
|Number of Entries|
Nearly half the lineups were single entries. The vast majority of contestants entered 5 lineups or less and less than 150 people entered 100+ lineups in the contest. Overall, the field is still mostly made up of people playing just a few lineups each week.
For questions, comments, feedback and suggestions for future articles, please contact me on Twitter (@hindery) or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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